American Flag Rises in New Zealand

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - In a brief but moving ceremony, the American flag has been raised atop the bridge spanning the harbor in Auckland, New Zealand as dawn broke on Sept. 11.

Doug Berry, the principal officer at the city's U.S. Consulate-General joined Auckland mayor John Banks to raise and then lower to half-mast the U.S. flag alongside that of New Zealand.

Sixteen hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time, New Zealand is one of the first countries to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks a year ago, and the dawn event was believed to be the first in the world.

"It's important that the rest of the world knows that we here in the south-west Pacific care about these things, particularly on this anniversary," said Banks, speaking on the bridge arch high above eight lanes of early-morning traffic and the rose-hued water far below.

Berry recalled that on "that terrible morning just one year ago," soon after the attacks he had gone outside the consulate-general to get away from the TV images of the carnage, to find that someone had left a solitary flower at the entrance. (It was before five in the morning of Sept. 12 in New Zealand.)

"That tiny, simple gesture moved me to tears, yet it also renewed my faith in the spirit and compassion of human kind. I returned to my office knowing that millions of other hearts ached just like mine."

Within hours, Berry said, that lone flower had been lost beneath thousands of others, which later spilled out into the street, blocking the sidewalk.

He also recalled the thousands of subsequent greetings, and most of all the pictures and messages brought by school children, "far too young to comprehend the complex world which we must one day bequeath to them."

Speaking ahead of the many observances planned around the country Wednesday, Berry thanked "the millions of our Kiwi friends, who will devote at least a moment today to reflect on this fact - the price of freedom is not free."

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow